This week's Iron Bowl against the Auburn Tigers is just a small hurdle in the uphill battle the Alabama Crimson Tide have in their way of defending their national championship from last season.
While it's all but a foregone conclusion that the Tide will roll over the Tigers in Tuscaloosa, knocking off the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game is everything but.
The Crimson Tide possess the best scoring defense in college football. Their only loss came after giving up 29 points to Texas A&M two weeks ago. That Aggies offense is averaging 43.5 points per game, sixth in the country in that regard.
While it’s not my intention to make excuses, the team certainly had its hands full with mobile quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Tide hadn’t faced a player of that caliber at the QB position since they shut down Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson in Week 1.
It’s understandable, then, why the Alabama slipped up. Redemption is sweet, though, and will be even sweeter for the Crimson Tide if they find new life and get back to the BCS National Championship Game.
All they need to do is win. It’s that simple.
Winning is exactly what the Tide are going to do.
Despite the Iron Bowl being a big in-state rivalry, there is seldom an upset that shocks either team. This year’s matchup will be no different. Alabama is the clear-cut favorite.
The Tigers just aren’t in the same league as the Crimson Tide this season.
That leaves the SEC Championship Game as the lone hurdle for the Tide to punch their ticket to the big dance, presumably against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
It’s a game that would pit two of the finest defenses in the nation against each other, but that’s another story for a different day.
In order to get to that point, the Tide will need to prove their worth by knocking off the SEC East champion and third-ranked Bulldogs. Georgia has national-title aspirations of its own.
Looking at the matchup, it’s hard to see how the Bulldogs could come away with the upset. They don’t do any one thing well enough for the Tide to be concerned. They’re efficient and balanced in both the run and pass but aren’t going to “wow” the Crimson Tide like the Aggies did.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have a good pass rush, but that’s where the positive comments end for the Bulldogs front-seven.
The team is allowing over 150 yards per game on the ground, a weakness that the Crimson Tide will be sure to exploit. Alabama is putting up over 200 yards per game rushing and will use that advantage to set up big plays downfield by A.J. McCarron and the speedy wideouts he has at his disposal.
It isn’t a sure thing, and it may not be pretty, but the Crimson Tide will get it done.
Their title defense begins with a big win over their rivals this weekend in the Iron Bowl.